Education Committee – Week 7, 2021


SF 261 – Authorizes the College Student Aid Commission to organize a nonprofit corporation

SF 261 would create a nonprofit organization, which is a mechanism to receive tax-deductible donations from individuals and organizations. This will allow the College Student Aid Commission to seek grant funding from grantors who award only to entities with a 501(c)(3) status, such as the Bradley Foundation, Hearst Foundation, Kresge Foundation and Spencer Foundation. It will ensure the agency’s successful fundraising while also establishing appropriate restraints to keep it from overstepping its status and function as an entity of the state. Iowa College Aid’s ability to secure grants and receive donations would help the agency continue its essential functions without placing a financial burden on the state.
[2/23:  48-0 (Excused: Nunn, Shipley)]

SF 265 – Allows students to repeat last year school year by parent/guardian request

SF 265 allows a parent to override a school’s recommendation on holding a student back a year for the 2021-2022 school year. Supporters say that some students “missed” a lot this year and deserve to repeat it, if necessary. Currently, schools are the final decisionmakers on grade placement for students and make those decisions based on educational assessment metrics and in consultation with parents.
[2/23:  42-5 (No: Celsi, Hogg, Quirmbach, J.Smith, Trone-Garriott; Excused: Nunn, Shipley)]

SF 289 – IASB changes to school boards, AEAs and district operations 

SF 289 is a combination of multiple requests from the Iowa Association of School Boards relating to duties of school districts. It contains these provisions:

  • Area Education Agencies (AEAs) Bid Threshold and Publication Notices: Replaces the current $25,000 threshold for requesting approval from the Department of Education (DE) before entering into a lease, purchase or lease-purchase agreement, and ties the amount to the competitive bid threshold. The cap has not changed since it was established in 1975. These sections also reduce the publication requirements for AEA budgets. The change would reduce their administrative costs from the current requirement that AEAs publish their budgets. 
  • Election of Board President, Closing Books: Allows the election of board president made in the prior year to extend up to 13 months until the regular school election is held in even numbered years. Under current law, a school board cannot close the books on their fiscal year until a board president is elected.
  • IASB Membership: Eliminates the requirement that school boards submit dues paid and benefits from membership in the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) to DE. However, the bill adds that a report the association is currently required to publish, which covers this information, must be submitted to DE.
  • Schoolhouses and Site Sold, and Proceeds: Allows a school district to deposit proceeds from the sale of a building into any account after publishing notice and holding a public hearing. This provides districts with more flexibility for using funds from the sale of property. The notice and hearing requirements are consistent with those required for municipalities.
  • Equipment Purchases Newspaper Notices: Strikes the Code provision requiring school boards to publish a notice in the newspaper before entering into a loan agreement for an equipment purchase. The IASB claims that boards already must notice their agendas and action items so this is duplicative.
  • Directors – Powers and Duties: Eliminates a duplicative reporting requirement on community strategies for early literacy. The bill amends the teaching strategies of the gold early childhood assessment to every resident pre-K or four-year-old enrolled in a school district, and a universal screening instrument to kindergarten students enrolled in the district.
  • Schoolhouses and Sites Sold: Allows a district to deposit proceeds from the sale or disposition of real estate into any account after publishing notice and holding a public hearing. Currently, a public hearing is required on a proposal to sell, lease, etc. The bill also increases from $5,000 to $25,000 the bid threshold to determine when a school district must publish notice of its intent to sell or dispose of non-real property. 
  • Eliminates the Energy Audit Requirement: Eliminates the requirement that districts submit energy audits every five years to the Economic Development Authority. IASB claims that districts are always reviewing their energy costs and looking for ways to economize.[2/23:  48-0 (Excused: Nunn, Shipley)]


SSB 1192 – Online and remote learning

SSB 1192 prohibits a school district or accredited nonpublic school from offering online learning or continuous remote learning unless the school district or accredited nonpublic school meets requirements of online learning courses (Code 256.7(32) or offer and teach (section 256.11(17), or is offering the online learning or continuous remote learning in accordance with a proclamation of public health disaster emergency issued by the governor. However, the bill allows a school to use an online learning platform to deliver the regular school day coursework for up to five school days when inclement weather causes the school to temporarily close during the regular school calendar. The limitation on the number of school days during which a school district can use the online learning platform to provide regular school day coursework does not apply an approved online school.  The Committee discussed expanding inclement weather to include other reasons for school closures, like gas leaks, etc.  They also addressed a possible need to clarify all approved online programs would be exempt from the five day limitation, not just CAM and Clayton Ridge.
[2/24: 15-0]

SSB 1205 – Training content prohibition and First Amendment training

SSB 1205 affects public institutions of higher education and school employees of public K-12 school districts, and imposes new training, prohibitions and requirements relating to First Amendment rights. The Board of Regents (BOR) must develop materials and procedures to ensure all entities that have oversight, administration or financial responsibility understand the policies, regulations and duties of the institution regarding free expression on campus. The BOR must protect the First Amendment rights of its students, staff and faculty, and must establish and publicize policies that prohibit institutional restrictions and penalties based on protected speech. An institution cannot retaliate against a person filing a discrimination complaint.

Student Organizations: Each public institution of higher education must provide student government organization members instruction and training on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including descriptions of what is or is not protected. Each Regents university will make student government organization access to and authority over any moneys disbursed contingent upon compliance with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and with Code chapter 261H. If a student government organization violates provisions of the bill, the institution shall suspend its authority to manage and disburse student fees for two years.

Appeals Board: The BOR must annually appoint from among its membership a three-member nonpartisan free speech appeals committee to receive complaints under Code section 261H.5 relating to Iowa’s three public institutions of higher learning.

K12 Employees/Faculty: A faculty member or K-12 school employee will be disciplined by their institution or licensing board, if they knowingly and intentionally restrict the protected speech of a student.

“Divisive Concepts”: Each public university is prohibited from staff or student training that teaches, advocates or promotes “divisive concepts.” This prohibition is applied to any contractor hired by the institution and their own training programs. The bill defines “divisive concepts” as those that state:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior to another;
  • Iowa is fundamentally racist or sexist;
  • An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive;
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
  • Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;
  • An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
  • An individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
  • Any individual should feel psychological distress on account of that individual’s race or sex;
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race;
  • Any other form of race or sex stereotyping or any other form of race or sex scapegoating.

Inherent bias prohibition: The bill defines “race or sex stereotyping” as ascribing character traits, privileges, status, etc., to a race or sex; assigning fault, blame or bias to a race or sex; or claiming that, consciously or unconsciously, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others.

Civil Rights Act: The bill literally says “diversity and inclusion efforts must discourage employees and students of the school district or institution from discriminating against another by color, race, ethnicity, sex, or any other characteristic protected under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 or applicable state law.”

Under the bill, nothing in this new language shall be construed to violate the First Amendment rights of students or faculty, or undermine the institution’s or school district’s duty to protect intellectual freedom and free expression; prevent a school district or public postsecondary institution from promoting racial, cultural or ethnic diversity, or inclusiveness; prohibit discussing divisive concepts as part of a larger course of academic instruction; or create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the state of Iowa, its departments, agencies or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.
[2/24: 11-4 (No: Celsi, Giddens, J. Smith, Trone-Garriott) ]

SF 328 – Adds to health care providers for athletic concussion policies

SF 328 adds occupational therapists to the definition of “licensed health care provider” for purposes of state law regarding concussion and brain-injury policies for extracurricular interscholastic activities. Duties of such licensed health care providers include, but are not limited to, making determinations regarding removal of students from participation and return to participation.
[2/24:  15-0]

HF 196 – Health care professional recruitment program expansion 

HF 196 addresses the expansion of the College Student Aid’s health care professional recruitment program to doctors/residents who graduated from an institution other than Des Moines University. Currently, only health care professionals who graduate from Des Moines University are eligible for the program. The bill adds that the health care professionals must have graduated from an academic program that leads to licensure. “Eligible institution” is defined in the bill as a Regent University or accredited private institution. “Health care professional” is defined in statute to mean a physician, physician assistant, podiatrist or physical therapist.
[2/24: 15-0]